With a conference report on the farm bill on the cusp of completion Monday, stakeholders in the country of origin labeling debate are entering their last pleas to either retain or eliminate the COOL regulations in the bill.
Groups opposing COOL as it stands submitted a letter to farm bill principals suggesting that if it wasn't altered to improve adherence to World Trade Organization rules, they would oppose the entire farm bill.
The rule mandates labeling on meat products that indicates where the originating animal was born, raised and slaughtered.
Groups signing the opposition letter included the American Meat Institute, National Cattlemen's Beef Association, National Chicken Council, National Pork Producers Council, National Turkey Federation, and the North American Meat Association, Feedstuffs reports.
In response, the National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson said the provisions in the farm bill for livestock are beneficial to family farmers and ranchers. Johnson alleged that the groups signing on to the opposition letter do not represent farmers and ranchers.
"They represent the vertically integrated packers, and they clearly do not have the interests of family farmers and ranchers in mind," he said.
Johnson noted that the farm bill conference includes several "strong positives" for livestock, including permanent baseline funding for livestock programs, the Livestock Forage Program, and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program.
"It is especially outrageous that on COOL, the outcome these organizations seek was not the subject of a single hearing in either the Senate or the House; it was not even proposed as an amendment on the floor of either chamber, nor was it debated in either committee," Johnson said. "And they want to do this despite the fact that more than 90 percent of consumers want to know more about where their food comes from."
NFU has previously been vocal on retaining the COOL regulations, citing benefits to consumers. Opposing groups, however, say the regulations are against World Trade Organization policy and could hurt trade relationships with Canada and Mexico.
Several of the groups are engaged in a lawsuit challenging USDA regarding the COOL regulation. NFU is among a selection of other groups intervening in USDA's behalf.
Read more on the COOL Rule:
COOL Opponents Plan To Appeal Injunction Decision
Court Denies COOL Opponents' Request for Injunction
Court Grants COOL Supporters' Request to Intervene in Labeling Lawsuit
Canada Issues Formal COOL Challenge
COOL Advocates Ask to Intervene in Labeling Lawsuit
COOL Rule Opponents Seek Court Injunction